Blog & News
Minnesota: A Communication Primer for the 2015 AcademyHealth ARMMay 08, 2015:
May 7, 2015: SHADAC is excited to welcome the national health services research community to Minnesota! In preparation for your visit, we're writing a series of blogs that will help you get the most out of your trip.
First on our list is language and communication. Study this guide carefully, and you can test your knowledge on us at our ARM booth.
Minnesota: Key Phrases
The following are some key phrases that will help you blend in with the locals. These are significantly more common outside the metro area, but you'll undoubtedly hear them during your visit to the Twin Cities, and no one will blink an eye if you toss one into conversation.
Uff da! ("OOF-duh")
This is a Norwegian expression of sensory overload, used to express relief, exhaustion, surprise, or any other overwhelming emotion.
Oh yah ("oh-YAH") or Oh, for sure ("oh-fer-SHER") or You betcha
All three of these phrases indicate complete agreement.
It could be worse. / I can't complain.
Self-explanatory. Minnesotans are of the opinion that things could always be worse, so it's best not to complain. Either of these is an especially appropriate response when someone observes your good fortune. (You wouldn't want to brag.)
Oh, for cute. ("oh-fer-CYOOT")
Roughly translated, this means, "That's gosh-darn delightful."
Use this phrase to indicate that you don't like something (you might even hate it), but you don't want to offend.
This is an exclamation of surprise, amazement, or--more often--frustration or disappointment.
This is not a question; it's a statement indicating anticipated agreement or acceptance. It can be used at the beginning or end of almost any sentence. Example, "Sorry I'm late. I was stuck in traffic, dontcha know."
Minnesota: Conversational Tone & Style
Control your excitement.
Traditional Minnesota speech patterns are fairly flat and monotone. Extreme displays of emotion are unusual. Don't get too excited.
Use a light touch.
Minnesotans are generally indirect in their communication and find it off-putting when someone is overly direct. Instead of a direct request (e.g., "Come over here, please."), try something a little lighter (e.g., "Would you mind coming over here for a quick second?")
See also, "that's different / interesting," above.
Memorizing the key phrases highlighted here and working to maintain an even-keeled and excessively polite demeaner will prepare you well for the culture of "Minnesota Nice." This is a set of characteristics that include polite friendliness, conflict avoidance, a tendency toward understatement, a disinclination to make a fuss, emotional restraint, and self-deprecation.
Garrison Keillor really describes Minnesota speech best:
"Oh, it's basically just your ordinary English except that there are no confrontational verbs or statements of strong personal preference, you know."
We sure hope you found this information helpful. Stay tuned for more tips for your trip to Minnesota!
Howard Mohr's 1987 book, How to Talk Minnesotan, is very instructive.
Joel & Ethan Coen's cult classic movie, Fargo, starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macey, and Steve Buscemi, is an exaggerated but informative study of Minnesota's unique communication style. It's pretty gory, though, so it's not recommended for the squeamish. Of note: While the movie is called Fargo, only the first scene takes place there; the remainder takes place in Minnesota.